Jun 29, 2019

Scooters, cities clash over rider data

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Scooter fleets are popping up across the country, and cities want access to rider data in exchange for letting them operate.

Driving the news: Los Angeles has spearheaded the “mobility data specification," a format for transferring transportation data between cities and electric scooter companies like Bird and Lime. A number of other U.S. cities have adopted it in some form.

What cities are saying: “Cities have historically been the ones to manage the public realm,” says Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “But we had not yet contemplated what that would look like in the digital realm."

  • Cities need real-time location tracking, Reynolds said. “If a scooter ends up in a place where it’s not supposed to be, the company has two hours to come pick it up and collect it or the city can impound it."
  • Cities want location data, but sensitive data like credit card information would stay with the scooter or bike company, she said.

The other side: “I just don’t think the cities have made the case for individualized trip data,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Jamie Williams.

  • She argues parking enforcement and tracking vehicle distribution doesn't require individual trip data, which can be analyzed to identify riders even if it's stripped of direct identifiers.
  • There are also concerns about the data being handled by third-party city planning tools like Remix and RideReport.

Meanwhile, California's legislature is considering a bill that would ban cities from collecting individual trip data, allowing only aggregate data to be collected.

The bottom line: “Just looking at scooter data is too short sighted — this is a model for getting access to data for other transportation,” says Williams. “Scooters are a really divisive issue, but a lot of those people also probably taking Lyft and Uber and would feel differently about that data.”

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Pandemic forces startups to shift gears

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Spaces CEO Brad Herman had an early warning about COVID-19 because his startup supplies VR attractions to a number of theme parks in China. Realizing that the business he spent the last few years building was going to evaporate, Herman quickly found a new way to apply his team's know-how: helping companies host Zoom teleconferences in VR.

Why it matters: Many startups are rethinking the viability of their core businesses in the wake of the coronavirus. Spaces' move is one of many such pivots likely to crop up in the coming months.

International coronavirus treatment trial uses AI to speed results

Hydroxychloroquine is one of the drugs that will be included in the trial. Photo: John Philips/Getty Images

The first hospital network in the U.S. has joined an international clinical trial using artificial intelligence to help determine which treatments for patients with the novel coronavirus are most effective on an on-going basis.

Why it matters: In the midst of a pandemic, scientists face dueling needs: to find treatments quickly and to ensure they are safe and effective. By using this new type of adaptive platform, doctors hope to collect clinical data that will help more quickly determine what actually works.

Go deeperArrow39 mins ago - Health

We can't just flip the switch on the coronavirus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It feels like some big, terrible switch got flipped when the coronavirus upended our lives — so it’s natural to want to simply flip it back. But that is not how the return to normalcy will go.

The big picture: Even as the number of illnesses and deaths in the U.S. start to fall, and we start to think about leaving the house again, the way forward will likely be slow and uneven. This may feel like it all happened suddenly, but it won't end that way.

Go deeperArrow53 mins ago - Health